I’m composing a blog post about the legendary London fog — if you’re like me, it’s not what you think it is — but until then, I’d like to direct your attention to a little thing I put up on YouTube a couple days ago.
For the past couple years, I’ve been working a second job. My dream is to make a 10-part documentary series that tells the history — the whole history, in all its glory and complexity — of quilts in America. The story of quilts in America is the story of America itself, so I guess what I’m trying to do is tell the history of our country. It’s daunting, but I won’t give up until I do it.
From the start, the goal has been to pitch the show to a major streaming network, like Netflix, Amazon, etc. It’s essential that the beauty and cultural juggernaut that is the American quilt reach an audience that doesn’t already know about it. In increasingly digital lives, the tactile power of quilts is more important than ever: Quilts have been and will always be there for us — as long as we keep making them and valuing the people who do. (It’s in everyone’s best interest: Most quiltmakers give their quilts away, so if you’re hoping to have your own homemade, patchwork quilt at some point, hug a quilter today.)
Perhaps more pressing is the fact that our country is more divided than its been in a long time, and I sincerely believe that the story of American quilts can bring us together. It’s not a stretch. All kinds of Americans have made quilts for generations: rich and poor; Black, White, Brown, and Indigenous; in every corner of the nation, with fine or rough materials, with expert skill or with no sewing experience whatsoever, we have quilts in common. The quilt is a symbol of American ingenuity and the idea at the heart of our nation: each sovereign piece works with others to create a diverse, beautiful united whole that is far more powerful, together.
Under the direction of filmmaker Jack Newell (aka my brilliant brother-in-law), and with the financial support of Bee-Hive Productions, I’ve turned a few of my lectures on quilt history into what I hope are entertaining “shows” for YouTube. I’m calling it The Quilts Must Go On! because they have to; the title is a declaration as much as it is a kind of prayer. This little project is not the documentary; it’s just videos on the internet. But it’s been lots of fun to make.
I like to learn stuff and then share what I learned. Stuff is so crazy right now and has been so crazy. Maybe The Quilts Must Go On! will provide a distraction. Each episode is about an hour.
If you follow me on social media, you probably know that I’m in London. If you don’t follow me on social media and we don’t communicate IRL, London might come as a surprise. Heck, London is still a surprise to me and I’ve been here for two months.
There’s a lot to cover. But we have to start somewhere, and I’d like to start with social media. Let me put down my fish and chips. (Drops greasy wax paper into bin; wipes mouth with sleeve.)
This summer, after years of resisting all but the barest minimum of engagement on social media, I succumbed to her deadly embrace. For the past couple months I’ve been regularly posting content on Instagram, and it turns out that I like making short videos for the internet and captioning the pictures I post with more than brief, sterile descriptions and arbitrary timestamps, which is all I did with my Instagram photos for years.
I’ve not been completely out of the social media game, it’s true. I like Instagram because I genuinely enjoy taking pictures and it’s fun to throw my adventures into the mix with everyone else’s. It’s a good thing I like Instagram because at this point, you have to commit to at least one platform. My husband is a Twitter person, for example, but I never use it. So Eric, the Twitteriot, reads me breaking news and I, the Instagramarian, show him puppies. Neither of us do complicated dance breaks, as those are best left to TikTokerean youngsters who, judging by the volume of content they create, are very, very ready for the pandemic to be over.
But I never felt like I was doing Instagram — or any social media — correctly. In case you missed it, “doing” effective social media now basically requires a master’s degree. (I think I’m kidding, but it could be true.) Successful social media engagement is a scientific proposition. Or a militaristic one. Because if you want results, it takes a war-room approach: You have to tag things, always, and you’d better be cross-posting to all the platforms or you’re wasting your time. You have to use the right hashtags and follow others so they’ll follow you, but don’t just randomly follow anyone; you must be smart about the followed and the followers — and you need a lot of the second kind. No, like a lot. At all costs, you must not commit a cardinal social media sin in front of God and Mark Zuckerberg and everybody, because they will eviscerate you. What sin? It depends. And who is “they”? No one knows. It’s just them, and you’d better watch out because if they decide you screwed up, they will hate you. But who cares! It’s the internet. Everyone’s attention span has been worn down to a nub by this point. They’ll forget about it by tomorrow. It’s just social media! Have fun with it!
All this is vexing in the extreme, so my post volume has always been extremely low. Until recently, I never posted videos. And I’ve always been religious about writing as little as I could in any given caption or comment box. I mean, if you want to write 500 words on the internet, get a … blog.
Well that’s an interesting point, Mary.
Right, so about a month ago, I caught myself writing a paragraph’s worth of copy for a single Instagram caption. “This is a blog post,” I said to myself, looking up at the clock. I’d been at it for 20 minutes. “What are you doing?”
It appears that I’m still producing content on the internet, just in a different form. I’m not entirely comfortable with this arrangement, but I have to admit it reminds me of something.
From about 2001 to 2005, I was a hardcore performance poet, slamming my early-twenties heart out every Sunday night at Chicago’s legendary Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, the birthplace of slam poetry, the cradle of slam civilization. The form has extreme specifications: A slam poet goes onstage in front of a captive audience and gets a microphone. That’s it. No props, no costumes. She does not have access sound cues or lighting changes. It’s just her and her poem. And the simplicity of that set-up, the restrictions imposed by it, that spareness, it shapes the work in a beautiful way. You, the poet, have nowhere to hide. You have to come out swinging because you are the show and your poems and your performance provide the drama, the humor, the set and the scenery. But a good slam poet shouldn’t need light cues or a soundtrack to evoke emotion: The words and the delivery should be enough — and when performance poetry is done right, it’s more than enough.
By the way, everything I just said I learned in real time. And after years in the solo performance trenches, I had to admit that I desperately wanted to play with some props. Anything, really. Plastic lobster. Paper hat. Peanut butter and jelly. Anything. I had so many ideas! Imagine what I could do with just one tiny sound clip! My kingdom for a sock puppet! I had the word stuff down well enough; I needed to advance to the next level of making work for the stage: blackouts. Stage doors. Sound effects. Maybe someone other than my damn self onstage for once.
So I auditioned for the Neo-Futurists — a prop-friendly ensemble if there ever was one — and for the next almost-six years, I had all the plastic lobsters a girl could want. I got my paper hat, my light cues, all of it. The work I was allowed to do with the Neos was full-color and required tremendous physical effort. There was so much material in every sense of the word. The two eras shared much in common (e.g., wild creativity, breathless excitement, incredible people) but if Neo-Futurism was abundance, slam performance was austerity, and both eras brought tremendous gifts.
I think PaperGirl is slam. And my social media content isn’t Neo-Futurism, exactly, but it’s definitely a space where I get to use props if I want to, or goof around with sound cues, or make as many set changes as I please. You could make the argument that I’d better use all of those things if I want to exist in the dripping, gaping maw of social media. And doesn’t that sound fun.
So, if you want to hang out with me on my Instagram page or on my Facebook page, that would be nice. You’ll get a peek at London, and at Eric, every once in awhile. I styled a photo shoot for Liberty, and I posted about that. I am posting pictures of London, a city I am deeply in love with, which is alarming. And I’m filming a lot of quilt-related video content and that makes me happy.
Most of the content is on Instagram but I try to make sure it’s cross-posted to Facebook. However much I advance in the social media game, I remain deathly allergic Facebook. It’s bad. Facebook makes my throat close up and my body gets all scratchy and puffy and then I basically die of anaphylactic shock and then I’m buried and then I rise from the dead and come back and put a 1,000-year curse on Facebook for its crimes against humanity and then, just to be safe — and since at that point I’m a sentient, powerful ghost — I melt all Facebook’s servers and turn the resulting river of boiling plastic into a sweet, clear, babbling brook, which becomes a home for magic ducklings who grant me three wishes.
Oh, look: I have a chunk of fish left and a few chips.
If you know about the fabric stash + book sale already, you’ll be more interested in this link that will take you to the Mary Fons eBay auction — and this red text is that link! If the auction is live already, it’s because eBay is complicated and strange, at least from the seller side of things. If it’s NOT live, yet, be patient, because it absolutely will be. Everyone will have time to play in the fields of a fabric auction, don’t worry. The auction will be up for five days!
NOTE: Many will notice that there are only 50 boxes for sale instead of 63, which is the count I gave yesterday. Have no fear! There are 63 boxes on offer, but eBay won’t allow me to post more than 50 items a month. (I told you: eBay, man.) I will post the rest of the boxes on April 1st, so look for that if you don’t get a box this time around.
Agh! It’s like throwing a party and hoping people will come, you know? However this goes down, I want to thank you most of all for the well wishes about the new place. It’s a new day. I feel like I’m breaking out of jail, I really do.
There comes a time in any blog’s serialized tale of woe that it must break the bonds of the narrative to announce a big, fat, juicy fabric stash sale. I’ll give you alllll the details in just a sec. First, let me tell you why I’m about to sell off a huge chunk of my personal fabric stash because many of you may be thinking that either I’m giving up quilting or I have been hit on the head by a coconut. Neither are even remotely true!
I am selling off a large portion of my personal fabric stash … because I moving to a pet-friendly apartment! Yes! It’s the best thing ever! The only downside is that the space I’m moving to is waysmaller than where I’m at now. Stuff’s about to get real, y’all. So …
Beginning Friday, March 22, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. (CST), I will be auctioning off a significant chunk of my personal fabric stash on eBay.
The auction will be live for five days, ending at midnight, March 27th.
***If you don’t want to read the reason/story behind why I’m doing this and just want to know how to get the fabric, skip ahead to “How This Will Work”!***
Announcing the fabric sale means speeding ahead in the story of my recent major depression, but honestly, it’s kind of a relief to take a break. It may be interesting, but by its very nature, it’s a real drag. So like, can we all just roll around in fabric for a while? Great!
The good news is that the breakdown story concludes with multiple happy endings, and this new dog-friendly living space is one of them for sure.
After the veto of Philip Larkin, so many of you encouraged me to find a new place to live — and you were right. I started looking at condos a couple months ago and found a perfect unit in a 10-floor building a few blocks north of downtown. It was love at first click. This condo checked all my boxes: puppy approved, in a vintage building in a safe neighborhood, with generally good vibes — everything I was looking for. The listing said the seller was “very motivated”, which made sense because the unit had been on the market for half a year. There’s nothing deeply flawed about it; it’s just that with no parking space, a narrow kitchen, and in need of a serious paint job, it makes it a hard sell for a lot of people. But the place was out of my price range by a lot. It was going to take a whole lot of “motivation” to get that number down enough for me to even think about making an offer.
But then one day, I got an alert that the price dropped. Cool, but it was still too expensive for me to seriously consider it. Then, about a month later, the price dropped again. Woah. We were entering the realm of possibility, now. Could this actually happen?? I contacted the realtor my family has worked with in the past and asked her if she had time for a chat. She did, and chatting commenced.
The process was agonizingly slow for weeks and then everything began moving fast. I scraped together all my savings and my IRA monies for a downpayment. After considerable drama, I applied for and got a decent mortgage loan. I crunched the numbers over and over. By renting the place I’m in now, I can pay my mortgage and my HOA fees at the new place. My realtor and I made our offer. The seller countered. We countered back. And then the answer came: Our offer was accepted. At this news, there was much squeaking and hand-flapping and I may have done several laps around my current apartment. Inspections were ordered. Appraisals, too. Checks were handed over. And just yesterday, the closing date is confirmed: March 29th, 2019. That would be next Friday, and I’m not freaking out at all.
Now that you know what’s going on, it’s time to talk about this fabric. You’ve waited so patiently.
The new, totally fabulous place is a one-bedroom. My current place is a two-bedroom. This single-woman-in-a-two-bedroom setup has been a great luxury for me as a quilter, since that back bedroom could serve as my lil’ fabric stockroom. My stash has grown over the years because duh, but also because with so much room back there, I could just keep filling it. Every yard, every fat quarter I purchased was brought in with love and excitement and I am fond of every bit of it. Suddenly, though, I’ve got serious problems. I do not have room for this stash. The only way I could keep all this would be to store a lot of it in my new kitchen cupboards and that would be crazy. Please tell me that would be crazy. (Thank you.)
What, then, are my options for significantly reducing a fabric stash? The way I figure, there are three: get a storage unit, give it away, or sell off a bunch of it.
A storage unit is out of the question. Fabric belongs in quilts, not in grimy storage units. Besides, it’s gross to keep a horde of fabric like that all to myself just because I bought it and love it. Other quilters might love it, too, and they could put it to good use. Donating sounds good, but it’s not as easy as you think to donate fabric. The Goodwill isn’t excited about getting boxes of raw yardage, and so few schools do sewing projects anymore, I haven’t found a single school that will take fabric donations. I have several boxes to send to a local guild for use in charity quilts, but as I thought about sending it all away, I thought, “Well, wait a second, Fons. You purchased this fabric. You have taken good care of it. You have a new, scary mortgage. It’s okay to sell things. It’s not evil.” This is an important note for me and for us all, maybe? Consciously or subconsciously, there exists a certain uncomfortability about making money on a quilt or selling one’s supplies when one could give every last scrap to charity. Quilts and money have a complicated relationship, but a fabric garage sale does not make me or anyone else a bad person. Some may disagree and that’s okay. I know how much a crosstown move costs in the city of Chicago and also I would like to eat food.
How This Will Work
My lovely assistant Jazzy came over last week and we hauled out all my fabric. It was pretty crazy in here. We brought in dozens of Medium-Sized USPS Flat-Rate boxes and filled each of them with a lovely variety of fabrics from my stash. Some cuts were excruciating to part with, but I was firm in my resolve. Each box was able to hold a lot of fabric. There’s Kaffe, Tula, Moda, Art Gallery; there are prints, solids … everything. Each box is a grab bag, but don’t worry: My fabrics are awesome. Some of the boxes are filled with smaller cuts, mostly fat quarters; other boxes are filled with large cuts of serious yardage, somewhere around four yards in some cases. It’s impressive or depressing, depending on how you look at it.
But there’s more than fabric in these boxes.
My book, Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts For the 21st Century, is now out of print. There won’t be any more in all of existence once my inventory is gone. I now have five boxes of books left, and two of them have to be saved for a couple gigs later this year. When my books are gone, they gone. But I don’t have room in the new place for these boxes, either, so I autographed a whole bunch of books and Jazzy and I put one inside each box.
“Mary!” you cry, “I must have one of these boxes! I love fabric and I want your book and I want to help you live! How much??”
Each box starts at $50.00, including shipping. I’d like to explain how I got that number:
As you probably know, USPS Flat-Rate Boxes (FRBs) are prepaid. FRBs were the only way to go, otherwise Jazzy and I would be at the post office for one fafillion years and everyone in line would be murdering us — with good reason. The boxes ain’t cheap, though: A medium-sized box is around $15 bucks. But we could pack a ton heavy fabric in each box and the poundage was irrelevant. The price of the boxes also accounts for the signed book, which retails for $22. A yard of quilt shop-quality fabric hovers around $12/yard. If you pick up a medium-sized FRB, you’ll get an idea of how much yardage each box is going to contain. Once we added all that up, we decided $50 bucks looked pretty fair. All the pre-washed fabric comes directly from my smoke-free, pet-free (!) home. Oh, and I put a fun certificate of authenticity in there, too, just to be cheeky.
There are 63 boxes that will be listed on eBay tomorrow. DO NOT JUDGE ME. If folks want the boxes, just put in the bid. If no one else bids higher, the box is yours when the auction ends. If the boxes don’t sell at all, I will weep and then I will donate everything, but I have to try this first.
If you’re interested in having a fun with this, be on the lookout here in my blog and on my Facebook page tomorrow morning when I post the link to the eBay page. I’ll do it early so you can get it all loaded up if you want to bid. The eBay page will give you all the above info and more. You are welcome to ask questions in the comments and either Jazzy or I will do our best to answer. As soon as the auction is over, the boxes ship out because heaven knows I need to get them out of here before the move happens on Monday. I’m still not freaking out at all. Do you happen to have any Tums?
And if this garage sale table excites you, just wait: I’m going to be selling a few quilts, too. More on that later.
I’ve been wanting to ask you something for a long time, so it’s exciting to finally get the opportunity. It’s a three-part question:
Have you been quilting or otherwise engaged in the quilt world for more than 30 years?
Did you take pictures?
Will you show me?
Show me the rounded-edge Kodak prints, the polaroids, the slides — I love it all. If it’s got your personal quilt history in it, I’m interested, and I want you to tell me about the pictures, too: Who are the people? Where were you? What year was it? And what was she thinking with that haircut? Things like that.
Here’s an important note: While I’m interested in quilt history from the big bang right on up to five minutes ago, I’m specifically looking for quilt-related photographs of people with their quilts taken from roughly 1940-1990.
That 50-year span is where I’m spending major research time for a number of projects. I can comb through this or that archive, and I frequently find things in databases and so forth, but asking you to share pictures is way better because you’re a real-life person who can, you know, talk to me. A citation can’t talk. Besides, I think this is going to be super fun.
I’m trying to think of things you’ll ask so that I can answer you ahead of time. Let’s see how I do:
I have pictures of all the quilts I ever made! When do I start?? Wait, wait! I love that you documented all the quilts you made but I am not looking for pictures of quilts by themselves.I am looking for pictures of people with their quilts. Making them, showing them, sleeping under them, presenting them, hiding under them, waving them like flags, cuddling up in them, helping sew them, using them for oil rags in the garage — all of that, any of that and more. Picture of you and the quilts in your life. That’s what I’m after. The photo up top is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Does this make sense?
Got it. Now, reassure me what you’re doing with these. These photos are my property. I want to look at these photos for my own edification and research. If there comes a time when I say, “This photo is incredible and I would like to use it for [insert project here]”, then I will contact you and we will both enjoy filling out many forms. Consider these words our very public, very binding contract: Whatever photos you share with me go no further unless we go further together. Look, it’s possible a hacker could get into my computer and start flinging pictures of you sewing in ’72 with Jan and Marla at the old house on Sycamore Street, but this would be out of my control. I do not think anyone will do this.
I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting for years for someone to ask to see my “Krazy Kwiltin’ Daze” photo albums. I have scanned a lot of my photos already. Where do I send the pictures?
If there’s a tidal wave of photos (!) there will need to be another system, but for now, scan your pics and email me at mary @ maryfons . com. Attach as many as you like. You can put “Photos” in the subject line. Alternately, you may put in the subject line the kind of ice cream you like best. I’d like to look at an email box full of ice cream flavors, wouldn’t you? I encourage you to use this option.
But, but … I don’t have a scanner. Or maybe I do, but I don’t know how to use it. I have so many photos! I hate technology. Now what?
I was afraid you’d ask this. I hate technology, too. I think you have to ask someone at a Walgreen’s or a FedEx-Kinko’s to help you? I suppose it would work to take a picture of a picture and email it to me from your phone. But this might be a miserable task, since I’m asking for information along with the picture. Speaking of information …
What kind of information do you want? I forgot to put the milk away last night, so I hope you don’t expect me to remember names and exact dates on a lot of these pictures. I left the milk out, too. Just do your best. Try to identify the people in the picture. Tell me where the photo was taken. If anything, do try to remember the year, even if it’s a rough guess. But don’t sweat this: I’m not doing genealogical research; this isn’t forensics. Just gimmie the gist.
The idea of this makes me happy, but I fear that I will feel sad while I’m doing it. It makes me not want to do it. I know. It’s hard to go through old photos, sometimes. People have passed away. Everyone 25 years ago was 25 years younger. Yes, nostalgia may have its way with you. It always has its way with me. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. Stick those photos back in the drawer if it’s too weird. I’ll survive!
What else? I have this fantasy of sitting and looking at humble photo after humble photo of people and their quilts during this timespan. I’m hoping I’ll see a picture of kids in the ’80s making a quilt fort; I’m prepared to drool over a photo of a sew-in at a college dorm; I’d love a black and white shot of a protest quilt of some kind; I’d just die and go to heaven if one of you sends me a picture with someone smoking while quilting, but this would surely be too good to be true.
Whatever you send, whatever you remember, thanks for being there.
I have been a little relaxed about letting you all know when there’s a new Quilt Scout column up. But why?!
After all, this Scout continues to keep the home fires burning over there at Quilts, Inc., opining about all sorts of quilt-specific items twice a month. Besides, she’s been filing rather sparkling content of late, darnit. Most of the time, when I turn in my work to the (rakish) Bob G. and (steadfast) Rhianna G., I say, “This is my favorite column, yet, you guys!!” but lately, I’ve meant it even more.
If you go to the Quilts, Inc. Scout page, I guarantee you’ll find several pieces worth your time. What will likely show up first is my piece examining the similarity between music “zines” of the 1990s and the early publications of the late-20th-century American quilt revival. Fascinating stuff. The column I turned in last week might be up by the time you click, though, which is just as groovy: I offer tips for taking great quilt style photography. Trade secrets!? You bet.
Regardless of what comes up on the homepage, all my columns, most-recent first, are linked on the left of the page. These pieces shall surely provoke and entertain. Now, I mean “provoke” in a good way, as in “provoke thought” or “provoke reflection”, though I have been informed that several of my columns — presumably the post critiquing feminism/quilting and the one about the Smithsonian article — elicited angry letters! Yes! Several people were miffed and let their miffs be known in emails (okay, two) to my bosses. Well, I like that very much. Writing and/or reading about quilting shall never be dull because the quilt is alive and well and complicated. Let the discourse live!
See you at the Scout. And you know, speaking of feedback … If you like what you read and want the Scout to keep scouting — forever in service to you — let Quilts, Inc. know. We all need a little encouragement, even a fearless scout.
At some point I’m going to describe for you what a Quiltfolk magazine location shoot is like. My first experience on a Quiltfolk location trip was as a writer on Issue 04 : Tennessee, so I didn’t have anything to do with the planning or execution of the shoot. I was just a hired gun, getting my stories, and, as a result, I remember that trip being super fun and very chill.
Once I began planning and producing the shoots, however, first as a contributing editor and now as editor in chief, that changed. The trips are still super fun, but they are the opposite of chill. There’s too much to do! There’s too little time! We must make haste and get all the stories we possibly can and have incredible experiences and record them for the people!
As I said, I’ll write up a detailed look into how the shoots work; for now, just know that things are nonstop, wall-to-wall, bananas. Very organized and buttoned-up bananas, but definitely bananas.
And speaking of bananas, I’d like to talk about food. Specifically, my relationship to food and what this has to do with going on Quiltfolk location shoots. I’ll try to do this relatively quickly, since a) I’m sleepy and b) like most people, I’ve got some heavy baggage around food and I could probably write whole books on the topic and never get very far.
The thing is this: When I’m on the road with Quiltfolk, there is no time to think about food. And that’s been my problem for a long time: I think about food more than is probably healthy.
Now, it’s not that I’m thinking about eating all the time, plotting when my next snack or meal will be, though I’ve been there. It’s more that I’m thinking about what I ate. What I should’ve eaten. What I should be eating in general and what I should not be eating in general. I think about times in my life when I ate X and didn’t eat Y; I think about times in my life when I felt attractive or times when I felt unattractive and did my food have anything to do with that? Should I do no-carb again? Is it finally time to cut out dairy? I’ve been trying to eat more plants and doing well and feeling well with that, but even if I’m finally doing the “right” thing … I’m still often thinking about food. And I know that this is a luxury, even while it traps me in my head and really makes me feel awful, sometimes. There’s so much other stuff to do and think about and other people to think about and care for. I really, really get tired of worrying about whether or not I am a “clean eater” or what magical combo of foods is going to cure my gut problems and … so on.
The good news is that it’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older. I am a little more familiar with myself and my body and I’ve accepted a few things about how I look and how I will not ever look, no matter what foods I eat. So that’s an encouragement to all the gym-centric, yo-yo dieting, juice-cleansing twenty-somethings out there: It can, and often does, get better.
But the best solution I have ever found to releasing myself from all that noise in my head about food is to be so busy, so focused, so happy, so “in the zone,” so needed at every moment that thoughts of food are simply not present. Put it this way: How hungry are you when you’re being chased by a bear? My job is way more fun than being chased by a bear, but in terms of stress and how fast I’m moving? Pretty similar. I don’t have time to dwell at all on whether or not I should eat my burger with or without the bun. I’m being chased! By! A bear!
The other cool thing about being chased by a bear is that, provided you are able to escape with your life, you are veryhungry once you’re able to catch your breath. When it comes time for lunch, after I’ve been running the crew, styling shots, interviewing folks, looking ahead to our next story, driving the car hundreds of miles, calling this or that person about this or that production detail, I could eat … Well, a bear. But it’s more likely a hamburger. Or two hamburgers. Or a granola bar. And an ice cream cone. And my word, do I drink water. Water and coffee, water and coffee.
The point is that it is on these trips that I am the person that I want to be, vis a vis food: I eat when I’m hungry. I don’t when I’m not. Food is delicious fuel, full stop.
I’m a little scared to post this. Does this even make sense? I’m nervous, I guess, because I know so many of us have baggage around food — or we have loved ones who do — and I’m in no way advocating for a thing or suggesting a thing or saying I’ve got it figured out. I’m just telling you that in that picture up there, I am literally eating a slice of pecan pie from Zingerman’s Deli in [LOCATION REDACTED] while I’m driving and it was totally okay with me. I was ravenous. I love pecan pie. I had worked my tushie off from 5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and eating that pie in that car with those women I was with was beautiful. I didn’t think for a second if it was “good for me,” and I didn’t consider my thighs.
I’m on the road for Quiltfolk’s eighth issue. It’s crazy because Issue 07 : Louisiana is shipping now and is on newsstands now, but I’m working on Issue 08.
The bad news is that I can’t tell you just yet what the next state in the Quiltfolk cycle will be, but the good news is that I will be able to tell you soon. Quiltfolk, in case you didn’t know, is a quarterly magazine that investigates quilt culture in America state by state. The magazine has had the policy of not letting the cat(s) out of the bag(s) about what state or region we’re focusing on next, but that is about to change. We’ve decided to “announce the season” ahead of time, an idea for which I strongly advocate.
But I don’t want to start letting cats out of bags before I huddle with my team, so for now, I can’t tell you where I am at this exact moment. No, all my cats are in bags. Some of these cats are in paper bags; others, shopping bags. One cat is happy inside a potato sack, which isn’t technically a bag, but when you have this many cats in bags, it’s really — okay, this is getting strange. And disturbing?? Who is putting these cats in these bags??
No cats were harmed, physically, spiritually, psychically, or metaphorically, in the making of this post.
I just had to talk to you about this, face-to-sorta-face! Announcing Quiltfolk Patterns is very exciting and I hope you like what we’re making. You will be amazed at the price we’ve set. You will be amazed at who we got as our first Revival Quilt designer. I’m so excited for July 4th I can’t stand it. I fly to New Orleans tomorrow. I hope this video isn’t too long, but it’s my first time vlogging!
It was actually pretty fun and I didn’t have to type!
When a person in magazine publishing says she’s “in press” or the magazine she works for is “going to press” it doesn’t mean she’s physically squished between two large ink rollers, nor does it mean she’s about to push a big red button that starts a Gotham-style newspaper printing press spewing out special edition headline news in a Batman movie montage. (You know what I mean, right?)
Being in press means you are under deadline to get all the content, the photos, the captions, graphics — every jot and tittle you see in a piece of printed matter — corralled onto the pages of the given publication before you must sign off on the thing and send it out into the world. (Then you get your big red button moment, sort of.) Making a printed anything that is good at all is an impossible task, so press is pretty scary. The more text, the more photos, the more captions, the more facts you have to check, etc., the scarier it is.
In press, all the things you didn’t know you were missing are revealed. For a 180-page quarterly journal like Quiltfolk, we have about five days of press. That’s five days of anguish as you go through page after page, caption after caption, looking for ways to make it better, make it prettier, make it make sense, and above all make it not wrong. It’s terrifying. Quiltfolk is way more like a book than a magazine (no ads, all those pages, all those photos) so I have a job where we make a big, fat book, four times a year. And by the way: We’ve been workin on the issue since April. It’s just that this is the crunch time. This is press.
Yes, we’re in press right now. And I was going to put up a post that said I couldn’t say hi at all because we’re in press. But I can’t help myself: I’m a publishin’ fool. Press is exhausting and frightening, but it’s also a blast. I love it. I love to make type move and I love to select a photo and I love to communicate this way. I’m not good at so many things and I’m not even that good at this, but I have ink in my veins, I really do.
I’ll tell you more about Issue 07 of Quiltfolk soon. Maybe even tomorrow, if those captions don’t take me out first.
Tonight was Sample Spree at Quilt Market. If you’ve never been to Sample Spree, allow me to offer a syllogism:
Sample Spree is to Quilt Market … as Black Friday is to Christmas.
It’s a shopping orgy-stampede, is what I’m saying.
At Sample Spree, vendors set up tables and sell special and sometimes limited-edition or otherwise promotional-only merch — at low, low prices — to Quilt Market attendees. Sample Spree is a big deal. It’s like a garage sale, except the people who are doing the garage sale are fancy and everything must go … except that it’s not old stuff, but new stuff. Let me put it this way: Sample Spree usually starts at 7 p.m. and the line starts a little after 4 p.m., every time.
Quiltfolkhad a table. We brought hundreds of copies of the magazine to sell cheap. We had our little credit card thing. We had our elevator speech. We were ready when the stampede began. And we sold out of everything in about an hour.
Of course, there are a few folks at Sample Spree that sell out in less than an hour; there are always a couple folks (ahem, Cotton + Steel) who have nothing to do 30 minutes after the doors open. But most folks sell for the full two hours and have to pack up what doesn’t sell. We were well stocked, though, and were still one of the first vendors to pack out of the convention hall with our empty boxes.
I’m telling you this for two reasons.
For one thing, it felt good to see that the project that I love so much is working. People get it. More people get it all the time. The world doesn’t need more ads, more noise. It needs more stories. That’s what I get to do with Quiltfolk. That’s pretty groovy.
The second reason I want to talk about Sample Spree is because you should’ve seen me and Mike and Bree, the company’s communications and customer service whiz. We were such a great team and I missed being part of a team! Certainly, I was part of a team at the paper; I loved that team. And I’m part of a team every time I go on location for the magazine. But there was something very … staff about tonight, very corporate in the best possible way. Me and Mike and Bree were doing the Quiltfolk thing together: pressing the flesh, autographing copies, making change for a $20, and so on. We had each others’ back.
The realization I’m done with school keeps coming over me in waves. I’m this person, now. I’m this working person. I’m part of a team. I’m working.
Something pretty cool happened last week: I got to talk to Ken Burns about his quilt collection.
If you got to talk to Ken Burns about his quilt collection, what would you ask him? After you asked him, would you hang up the phone and fall over on the floor and replay every second of the conversation in your mind to recall moments when you sounded like a dork or loser? Upon discovering that you probably did sound dorky at least at one point, did you console yourself that at least you interviewed Ken Burns??
That’s how it went for me.
Last weekend, Team Quiltfolk went to the Ken Burns quilt exhibit in Lincoln, Nebraska and we have worked tirelessly for the past 7-8 days (yes, I worked on it while working on my thesis) to bring you this free — FREE! — Quiltfolk Exclusive. It’s a 28-page, online-only PDF that you can by clicking this link and friends, it is very, very good. It’s been making the rounds on social media, but if you don’t use it much (like me), I hope this blog post gets to you.
Ken Burns was so nice. And the quilts are so beautiful. And Quiltfolk is so cool. I want this kind of wonderful experience all the time, this kind of blissful story to cover, but I know better. Some days, you just like, eat toast and you have to work on less-fun stuff.
When I tell you that the past two weeks have been agonizing, don’t be alarmed. It was a certain kind of agonizing that was not many other kinds of agonizing, thank goodness.
I was not nightly persecuted by owls, for example. No anvils dropped out of the sky at regular (or irregular) intervals. My fridge did not say disapproving things to me as she witnessed my eating habits. Can you imagine??
No, life was tough because I was on location for Quiltfolk last week and most of the week before and I couldn’t tell you anything about it. I didn’t tell you I was traveling at all! I just kept quiet as a mouse and had to post less often, partly because I worked 16-18 hour days and partly because I couldn’t make a peep about where we were. We like to keep the location of the next issue of Quiltfolk a secret for at least a little while, so I couldn’t write to you about any of the things I was seeing, the people I was meeting, the quilts I saw … !
How painful it was to not be able to tell you about when [REDACTED] brought out all the quilts made by [REDACTED] that are so world-famous. How it pained me to not share about when the lady at the [REDACTED] showed us the legendary [REDACTED] and we actually met [REDACTED], who made us a [CHEESECAKE] for lunch!
I think I can say cheesecake, can’t I? Guess we’ll find out!
But seriously: Going to [REDACTED] for Issue 07 was one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve had in my professional life. It was that good.
Issue 06 : Arizona is now on newsstands everywhere. It’s shipping to subscribers, available now. I’m so proud of the Arizona issue, so over-the-moon happy about the work we’re doing. Quiltfolk is oral history. It’s culture for quilters, for people. It’s getting stronger with every story because it must. The stakes are high, the time is now.
And when you see Issue 07 in a few months, you’ll see why I was in agony, trying to not let the [REDACTED] cat out of the bag.
I’m back from Los Angeles, back from QuiltCon 2018. What an incredible show, what an incredible quilt culture we have in America. Just think of all the people and art and history and innovation and fun that comes together at a show like that. Incredible. Thank you to all who had anything to do with QuiltCon this year, from the people who made quilts in the show to those who just enjoyed the scenery from social media. We need everyone.
Things I did at QuiltCon included but were not limited to:
delivered a lecture on the AIDS Quilt (one of my best ever, I am satisfied to admit)
gave a tour of the AIDS Quilt panels I curated for the show
was interviewed by Angela Walters for Craftsy (thanks, Walters!!)
gave a lecture on the modern quilt and the future of it (*this also went well and I’ll return to the topic of the lecture in a future post)
interviewed people for Quiltfolk
meet’ed and greet’ed quilters at the BabyLock booth
saw amazing friends, fans, colleagues
drooled on quilts (not really, but close, okay maybe a little actual drool, oops, saarrry)
Things I did not do:
take many pictures
The funny thing about a big show is that you think you’re going to have time away from the computer and therefore be free, somehow, to “take it all in” and then — if you’re me — write about it as soon as you get back to your hotel room. But that’s never how it works out for this one.
Conferences like Quilt Market and QuiltCon are so totally packed with activity, so totally frenetic with action — to the point of being almost manic — that when it’s time to shut my hotel door at the end of the long day, doing much of anything is highly unlikely, especially since my “anything” frequently involves thinking thoughts, crafting them into halfway-well-written sentences, then posting them for public consumption. Historically, I’m just not able to do anything that complicated at the end of a “show day.”
For example, one night I got into my room, ate some cheese popcorn and fell asleep with the lights on with a faint cheese powder ring around my mouth. The next night, after two celebratory margs with the Quiltfolk photographer (I’m telling you, I crushed my lectures; I deserved to tie one on), I got into my room, washed my face, and proclaimed, literally out loud, “Who needs pajamas?” and fell asleep in my shirt.
Thank goodness QuiltCon is done until next year because a) I don’t need to be eating cheese popcorn alone; and b) everyone needs pajamas. Besides, if I neglect my blog, think how many wonderful, interesting, hard, tricky, beautiful, strange, funny, frightening, and surprising stories and anecdotes and observations will never reach you? I have to reach you with these things; otherwise, where will they go?
For example: On the way to Los Angeles, the Southwest flight attendant got on the PA and said:
“Welcome to Southwest Airlines, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Rick, your head flight attendant this afternoon. Joining me today is my daughter, Bethany, in the back of the aircraft, and my son-in-law, John, is here at the front with me today!”
Isn’t that wonderful? The flight family! A family of flight attendants had all been able to arrange their schedules to be on the same flight. I thought that was really nice. I had a nice feeling about that.
On or about April 1, the sixth issue of Quiltfolk is coming soon, everyone. The bad news is that you still have to wait a little bit; the good news is that she’s the best-yet issue of Quiltfolk and I’m honored to be a part of the team. It’s cool if you watch this teaser video like nine times while you wait for your copy of Issue 06 : Arizona. Friends, you will not believe what we found when we went to the desert to investigate quilts. Wow, wow, wow.
Hold onto your cowboy hats.
p.s. How about those red glasses on the blonde chick with the notebook?? I’m into it.
I know it’s early in the year, but I’m going to say it: If you read one Quilt Scout column in 2018, read the one I’m linking down below.
Over the past month or so, I’ve been noodling on how to go about petitioning Google to make a “Google Doodle” about a famous, important, special quilter. I’ve figured out the way, and the time is now — and I need you. We need you. There’s never been a Google Doodle about a quilter, ever. Ever! What’s up with that?
Questions you have may include: “What’s up with that?” and “What’s a Google Doodle?” and “Wait, what do I have to do?” and “Mary Fonswhat is even happening please explain.”
That last one is not a question but there’s no time! This is all very easy: Head over to the Quilt Scout, read all about it, then vote. Let’s make sure the internet (read: world) never forgets how important quilters are and how much we contribute to society, art, and human beans everywhere. A Google Doodle is a legit way to do that, so let’s circle the wagons, people. Filling out the form will be your good deed for the day — well, unless you’ve done other good deeds today. Considering the people who make up my readership, it is highly likely you’ve amassed a number of good deeds already. That’s okay.
I kept saying there were big announcements coming soon, that I’d be sharing good news before long. Maybe some folks thought I was finally going to get my dream dog, Philip Larkin. Did anyone think I eloped?? That would be so cool if someone thought that.
There’s no Philip Larkin, yet, and I’m not as far as I know. I was promoted to Editorial Director of Quiltfolk magazine, though.
:: skips, jumps, trips on a stray sock, gets glass of water, returns ::
Can you stand it?? How cool is this?? To me, this the Coolest Thing Ever. Quiltfolk is doing is precisely what my heart is telling me — no, shouting at me — to do right now: investigate, celebrate, and honor quilt culture in America, past, present, and future. Quiltfolk is real. Quiltfolk is dreamy. Ergo, editorially directing Quiltfolk is a very real, very dream-y job for me. I have red marks on my arm from pinching myself for the past couple weeks. I’d better see my doctor about — oh, wait … Maybe not.
[Look, people, if I don’t laugh, I won’t stop crying about yesterday’s post. Thank you, everyone for listening to me — and to each other.]
A new job offers an opportunity to reflect on one’s professional life, don’t you think? I mean, when I was in high school and stopped waiting tables at the Pizza Hut north of town to wait tables at Northside Cafe on the town square, I recall doing some soul searching. Come with me for just a moment, will you, as I mull over this promotion?
It’s been about 10 years since I began working in earnest in what I saw at the time as my mother’s industry. I still think of it as her industry, honestly, and I’m okay with that. We’re all just standing on the shoulders of giants; my mother would say the same thing.
Anyway, in the early years I was a nervous beginner asking the dumb questions on “Love of Quilting.” A couple years later, I grew into what we call a “confident beginner,” able to create and host “Quilty,” an online how-to show for other beginners. “Quilty” grew a cult following for the five years it was on the internet-air, and I was able to use my freelance writing skills to serve as editor of “Quilty” magazine for four years. I wrote a book during that time. I dreamed of making a Mary Fons fabric line of reproduction fabrics and I did! I really did that and I loved that project. I’ve created and delivered a ton of webinars. And I have spent many, many days planning and executing gigs from one coast to the other, teaching and lecturing for (tens of?) thousands of quilters at this point.
**Quick note on that last thing: Between my former life as a Chicago theater professional and my experience as an itinerant quilt teacher/speaker, I fear no room. No grand auditorium, no tiny church basement, no ad hoc retreat center phases me. Beyond that, there is no tech failure I cannot work around. When the projector at a guild meeting in Oklahoma two years ago was DOA, I did my entire slideshow presentation with no slides. And you know what? I slayed.
The whole time, ceaselessly, I’ve been writing. Writing this blog; articles for Fons & Porter; the Quilt Scout; articles for magazines like Modern Patchwork and Curated Quilts. And, starting with Issue 04: Tennessee, I’ve been writing for Quiltfolk magazine.
One more point to make and then more about Quiltfolk:
All this stuff I’ve been up to over the past decade has been done in front of everyone. As I’ve grown (into) my career, I’ve been on display. Anything I do, it’s out there, right away. This is partly due to the Fons name, partly due to the internet overall, and partly due to this blog, of course. Without the ol’ PG, I could show you less. I could hide better. I could have career developments and changes and losses and trials and victories and failures and disappointments and agonies and ecstasies slightly more in private if I didn’t do what I’m doing right now, which is writing to thousands of subscribers about my life, on my couch, in my pajamas. With some chips, maybe.
(There are chips.)
My point — and I do have one — is that doing everything in full view is kookoo bananas … but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love growing up in front of you. You’re my tribe. You’re my people. I love you. You see me. And when I look at the comments and the paper mail, I think that you really do love me right back. (Woah.) And when people actually love you, they are happy for you when good things happen, and so you want to tell them. You want to celebrate, they want to celebrate. Because wow, life is hard, sometimes, but other times, it’s just really good. This is really good, this new opportunity Mike McCormick has given me. Thank you, Mike.
Quiltfolk is important. When you see it, if you haven’t seen it, yet, you’ll know. You’ll see.
In closing: To those of you who are wondering how I’m going to manage the new position while I’m in grad school, know that a) I’m almost done with school; b) the promotion at Quiltfolk forced me to resign — with class, diplomacy, and a promise to help in the transition — from the student newspaper; c) I’m not accepting any gigs for the foreseeable future; d) I’m considering bi-weekly Swedish massages until I finish graduate in on May 14th, 2018.
Speeding home in a taxi this evening, I gave in and opened the news app on my phone. Reading the news more than once a day is bad for a person’s health and I checked the blasted thing this morning already.
But if I hadn’t looked, I might not have seen the hot-off-the-fashion-presses story about Kim Kardashian West and her latest ad campaign for Calvin Klein. Kim is evidently now selling jeans for the company, and the ad campaign features Kim hanging out with her sisters, all of them in jeans and looking dewy/rich, talking about babies or boys or themselves, which is fine. It’s the Kardashian Way.
What is rather surprising, however, is that the girls are spread out on or coquettishly clutching … patchwork quilts.
Red and white quilts, specifically, and the quilts are theonly visual cue on set. The girls are in a barn-like space (as evidenced by the wooden beams overhead, sort of) but this is way-in-the-back-backdrop.
In this ad, the quilts are very, very much the thing. Well, the quilts and the boobs.
Much will be said about this ad campaign. The fashion people will freak out about how daring and koo-koo bananas fabulous it is for Kim & Co. to use quilts of all things to sell tight jeans. How anachronistic! How gauche/glam! Old/new! Gag, gag, gag. (“Gag” is a good thing in this context.) Some fashion people will think it’s a misfire, I suppose, but haters will hate and the Kardashians are used to it.
I’d wager that way, way more quilters are going to be talking about this campaign than the fashion world people, though. And to offer the second surprise of the evening: I’ll bet most quilters will be excited about it.
Seriously. Quilters love quilts. We’re excited when we see them featured in mainstream media. Ken Burns was just interviewed in the New York Times about his exhibition at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, in Lincoln, Nebraska, and whatever you think about the New York Times, that was awesome. That article got shared like crazy among quilters. We like it when the other half notices what we know all day: Quilts matter, they are great, they have never gone anywhere, and they aren’t going anywhere, either.
And when a major celebrity puts a quilt in her photo shoot, we’re down. Sure, some ladies will tsk-tsk about Kim’s underpants and someone(s) somewhere will get their applique twisted that the quilts are on the floor. The haters will hate. People have different opinions about how we do all this. Quilters are used to it.
The Kim Kardashian/Calvin Klein quilt ad campaign is a good thing. Quilts are indelible, enduring symbols of domesticity and comfort, of home and care. They’re also kind of associated with women, if you haven’t noticed. And while you might not approve of the Kardashian cult of celebrity, or the annual monies spent by their empire on manicures/private jets, etc., you gotta admit: These folks are all about family and home. They’re about kids. Legacy. Tradition. Sounds like a quilt family to me. What do their extensions have to do with anything?
It’s a heck of a thing when a celebrity on the Kim Kardashian scale puts a quilt front and center in an ad campaign or a photo shoot. In fact, the Kim ads are so surprising precisely because thisnever really happens. Madonna has never done a quilt thing. Julia Roberts was never photographed for InStyle magazine with a quilt on her lap. Oprah hasn’t taken up sewing hexies at her ranch house. The only other big-time celebrity I can think of who really pushed the quilt into pop culture was Gloria Vanderbilt, and that was 40 years ago! In the 1980s! She was super into crazy quilts and had fashion designer Adolfo make robes for her to wear around her Log Cabin-decorated house.
But Gloria doesn’t have a reality show, y’all, and she ain’t married to Kanye West. This is probably a good move on Gloria’s part, no disrespect to Kanye. I’m thinking of the age difference.
Anyway, this post has been dashed off pretty fast; maybe too fast. I try to ruminate on things before I start typing. But by the time the taxi dropped me off at my building, I had gone through a (hopefully) robust thought process on all this and I’m okay if there’s more to say later. For now, I feel confident that quilters, on balance, are going to cheer about Kim and the red-and-whites.
I know you’re just dying for sparkling prose and/or investigative journalism, but today’s post will be simply a quilt moment of zen. Here’s why:
I’m on a super-secret business trip, which means I can’t write about what I did today. Or yesterday. Or what I’ll do tomorrow. I will, but I can’t right now.
I keep falling asleep while I’m typing.
The above picture is incredible and you just need to see it.
This picture was found where all my pictures are found, Wikipedia. But it came by way of the gov’ment; The image officially belongs to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). I tell you this because NARA has a lot of interesting photographs and you should go look through all 90 billion of them (or however many there are) on a rainy day. I mean it!
Anyway, this picture was taken in 1973 by one Charles O’Rear near Lincoln, Nebraska, and the glowing, generous spirits in the picture are listed as “members of the Golden Circle Senior Citizens Club of Fairmont.”
Don’t you love them? Don’t you just love them all down to bits?
Quilts are good for calming spirits; quilters can do the same. Well, not all of them. That lady in the way back looks a little grumpy.
We interrupt the trotting out of holiday traditions for a special announcement: My latest Quilt Scout column is up! And I really do need to let you know that because I forgot to do it last week.
You’ll soon see that the column is sober in tone; that’s by design. In the piece, I examine how hard it is to learn things that challenge what we think — even what we love. It happened to me recently while I was doing quilt history research and writing it out for the ol’ Scout helped me cope. Maybe it’ll get you thinking, too.
Anywhoop, I’ll be back tomorrow with Holiday Tradition No. 2.
Ever had times in your life when you looked longingly at your sewing machine and sighed a deep sigh because you knew there wasn’t a bobbin’s chance in you-know-where that you were going to sit down and sew anytime soon?
Ever unplugged your machine so that you could vacuum real good around the table only to realize, two weeks later, you never plugged it back in because you have not even been over to that side of the room in two weeks?
Yeah, me, same.
Hey, man. There are seasons in our lives. There are seasons when we reap, and there are seasons when we — wait for it — sew. For me, it’s just not a “sewing” season and I have to be okay with that.*
Sometimes, when I don’t get any exercise for awhile, I get very dramatic about it in my mind and think, “That’s it! It’s over! I’ll never have what I used to have, which was a somewhat regular exercise regimen!” The same goes with quiltmaking. I look back at my output over the past six or nine months and, if it looks like it looks now, which is bad, I feel like, “Whelp! That’s it! I’m a phony! How can I even call myself a quilter?? I’m all talk!”
But of course, this is ridiculous.
Sometimes, I just can’t exercise because I’m flying all over the country, for Lord’s sake. Sometimes, I can’t make a big quilt (or five) because I’m in grad school and more or less working full time. It’s okay, I tell myself. It’ll smooth out because I like exercising. I like making quilts. These things are going to be there for me when I get done with this other stuff — and I’ll be there for them, too, ready and excited to pick up where I left off, hopefully.
Yes, the “I’ll get to it when I have more time” mentality can be a problem. It can lead to inertia and self-sabotage.
But sometimes, it’s just true that you’ll do it later. Sometimes, when you have to choose between sleep and a round of cardio boxing, you gotta go with sleep. When you have to choose between getting the reading done and working on something that does not currently have a deadline attached to it (aka, your latest-greatest quilt), the reading has to win. For you, you might have to choose the kids, the needs of the spouse, the upcoming move, the divorce, the second job — any of that, over the other stuff. For now.
When school is over in May, I swear, the rest of my life is going to feel like a vacation. I’m going be in very good shape and I will make two quilts every single week.
*You get the joke, right? Sow/sew? I had to make sure!
I want to be with you all so much but I’m plum tuckered out. So the best thing to do is to offer you (and my own self) this Quilt Moment of Zen.
You’re gazing at a variation on the Oak Leaf pattern made in 1860 by one Mrs. M.E. Poyner. The quilt was made in Paducah, Kentucky, and measures 74″ x 86.” My pal Bill Volckening, of Portland, Oregon, owns this quilt. I’m sure he’s keeping it very safe.
Nice work, Mrs. Poyner. It looks good enough to sleep under — don’t mind if I do.
Wonderful things are happening in the quilt world.
All around us, quilters and the people who love them are creating new places for us to learn, grow, be inspired, and gain new perspective on this thing we love so much. Every once in awhile, I’ll hear a quilter grumble how “the quilt world isn’t what it used to be” and I actually agree, though as far as I’m concerned, it’s better than ever.
There’s a new publication out on stands now called Curated Quilts and you should get a copy. It’s true that not long ago, I entreated you to investigate another quarterly publication I felt worthy of your time and resources. That I’m coming to you with another suggestion is proof that what I said above is true: Good stuff is happening in print, people, and I refuse to withhold my praise!
Curated Quilts (CQ) is a 90+ page, advertisement-free publication brought to you by Christine Ricks, (graphic designer and creative director of Missouri Star Quilt Company’s publishing division), and my pal Amy Ellis, who was a terrific guest on Love of Quilting some years ago and who I tapped to write a column on domestic machine quilting for the original Quilty magazine. These girls are legit, is what I’m saying.
Christine and Amy have done something wonderful with their brand-new magazine: They’re organizing each issue of CQ by quilt type. Issue 01 is “Linear Quilts,” for example, which means that the strippy quilt, the bar quilt, the however-you-call-it quilt with lots of vertical or horizontal lines is the focus of the issue. (Issue 02 is “Log Cabin,” so you get the idea.)
While Curated Quilts is geared primarily for the modern quilter, the fact that they hired me to write historical perspectives on each issue’s chosen quilt style shows Amy and Christine are thinking broadly and thinking big. And, as I have said before, even if you don’t make modern quilts per se, there is so much to learn from this ever-widening corner of the quilt world. The moderns are a force, and watching what they do gets more exciting every passing year. I think I’ve made exactly .5 quilts that could be considered “modern” — I put an asymmetrical back on a quilt, once! — but that has no bearing on my ability to glean much from my modern sisters and brothers. It’s surely the same with you, too, or it could be: As quilters, we’re all people who make useful covers for others out of cloth and generosity. Style is secondary.
Curated Quilts is available at the website, though I’d love it if you’d ask your local quilt shop to order it for you; we gotta support our shops.
A heads-up regarding the price, which is higher than your typical quilt magazine: Like Quiltfolk, Curated Quilts doesn’t include any advertising whatsoever — and make no mistake, advertisements are what fund magazines. Without ads, you have to structure a publication’s business plan differently, i.e., rely on a higher sticker price and hope for a healthy subscription list. What the reader gets in return for her money and her good faith is nothing short of a zen-like reading experience, a magazine that is more like a beautiful book (but cheaper!), a magazine that will look so pretty on your coffee table, your sewing table, and then on your bookshelf, lined up with all the other issues to come, that you will quickly get used to the difference.
That I get to write about quilts for these exciting, emerging, game-changing publications is a dream come true. Heck, I never even dreamed of it, exactly, but I’m so grateful. We should all be very excited when these kinds of projects are launched because it proves the health of quilting in America.
But you don’t need to pick up a copy of Curated Quilts on principle. Pick it up because gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.
Wow! Setting up an auction is a lot of work. But it’s exciting. It’s actually one of the most exciting things I’ve done in a long time, I have to say. Helping feels great. (It sure feels better than doing nothing.)
In case you missed it: I’m going to sell ten quilts to raise money to benefit those down in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have had their lives turned upside down as a result of Hurricane Maria. I’m donating all the money raised to Americares.
And this post is going to serve the same purpose: to give more details. Instead of rushing through this and going off half-cocked, I’ve decided to start the auction at 7:00 p.m. CST, October 2, 2017; I will post the link to the auction here on the ol’ PG at that time! The auction will last two days, until October 4, 7:00 p.m. I’m hoping it won’t take that long to sell off quilts for hurricane relief, but who knows? Maybe no one wants homemade quilts by Mary Fons with help from Pendennis and simultaneously help their brothers and sisters in need… Cough! Cough!
A few more important things:
There’s a quilt I’ve decided to auction that is one of those should-I-or-shouldn’t-I situations. But I’ve decided on “should.” There’s a quilt I have called “Memories.” It was one of the first quilts I made. We featured it on Love of Quilting (Episode 1709), which some may remember because I talked about how I had actually lost three of the blocks from the quilt! I made this quilt 10 years ago and… It’s gorgeous. It’s really, really gorgeous, y’all, and it’s huge, at 90 x 90. Dawn Cavanaugh longarmed it and it’s just truly phenomenal, almost show quality.But… Well, it’s time. I want to help people and share the love of this quilt more than I want to have that quilt on the back bed, sitting under other quilts, you know? It’s done what I needed it to do for me. It’s given to me. Now, it can give to you, and give to other people. This one is a take-a-deep-breath-and-go-for-it quilt. It’s scary to give till it hurts, I gotta say!
I’ve decided that all the quilts will have a “Buy Now” price in case someone is really freakin’ out to get one. I don’t think this will happen (Jinny Beyer/Nancy Crow I am not — and they command higher prices than that!!!) but I figure there could be someone out there who wants to help people and wants a quilt and why not give the option? Can’t hurt, I guess, but I set it super high so that it will encourage people to bid and have fun with this.
Will you spread the word? I know, I know: The more people know about this, the more people you’ll be competing with to win! But remember: The point is to raise the most money possible, so please share about this auction on social media and on your various phone trees? We can do this together, and the lights are still off in Puerto Rico. They need us all.
Texas. Florida. Mexico. The Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico. There have been so many devastating weather events lately, I spend a good deal of time feeling depressed and frightened and useless when these reports come in. And I feel guilty, too, because what can I do? Does $25 to the Red Cross really help? Should I go to Texas, to Mexico and try to sandbag or something? But how does that even work and won’t I just be in the way? What if I make everything worse and what if I put myself in danger on top of everything else? You probably recognize at least some of this unhappy thinking which, sadly, is 100% ineffective in all directions.
This morning, after clicking through the (more bad) news, my brow furrowed and I sank onto the couch with a groan. Our countrymen and countrywomen in Puerto Rico find themselves facing a humanitarian crisis that could threaten the stability of the region for a long, long time. It’s chaos down there and can you just imagine being a little kid down there right now? How scary it must be? All of a sudden, thinking about that, I just got fed up. I decided that nope, not today, no more stewing, no more gnashing of teeth and groaning and doing nothing. Today, I decided, today I would act, I would do an actionable thing to help someone out there on that island. That’s a U.S. territory, dammit, and more needs to be done.
I have come to understand that what is very helpful in a crisis situation like the one in Puerto Rico, the best thing for me to do is to send money — but I simply do not have extra right now. So I thought, “How could I raise some money?” Walking to and fro on my carpet, sipping my tea (I’m back on tea, coffee’s for the birds, at least in the morning), I remembered that I’ve been needing to make good on something I say to hundreds of people all over the country: Quilters who make lots of quilts should give lots of quilts away. “Don’t keep your quilts in a stack in a closet,” I say, sometimes even shaking my fist. “Give your quilts to people who want or need them! Go make more quilts! You will, anyway! Give it away, people!”
“Mary, Mary, wait a second,” you say. “Calm down.” And then, scratching your attractive head, you ask me why I’m on about quilts when I said I wanted to send money to Puerto Rico.
Wait for it!
Despite my fervent “Give away your quilts” message, which I do stand by — fervently! — I find myself with a quilt surplus right now. Some of these quilts are from my book, Make + Love Quilts, available at fine quilt shops everywhere; some are from the days of Quilty magazine; one or two were “just-for-funs”; one is a sample I made for the fabric line. I’ve given away other quilts over the years but somehow I haven’t yet given these quilts away and you know what? It’s time to turn them into money for people in need.
I’m going to auction off ten (10) quilts tomorrow, October 1st, 2017, and all the money will go to Americares to benefit victims of Hurricane Maria. This is going to be fun and awesome. Ten people will get their very own Mary Fons quilt and hundreds of people will get at least a little bit of help down in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico! And I’ll have more room in my house! This is great!
All of this will go down tomorrow. No, I don’t know exactly what time. I have homework to do and I have to set up this online silent auction thing. All will be revealed, don’t get antsy. Actually, no: Do get antsy! Be excited to buy a quilt from me and help so many people! But because I know there are burning questions, here are a few details for now:
Where’s the money going?
I spent a lot of time looking at which organization I want to send money to and Americares wins. They recently air-lifted $1.8 million in food and medical supplies to the Virgin Islands, and that was just another day at the office, if you will. Their website says: “Hurricane Maria: Emergency Relief Fund; For every $10 you donate today, we can provide $200 in aid — that’s the power of giving to Americares.” Think of the math, you guys: If I sell ten quilts at a minimum bid of $100 and no one bids a penny more, that’s $1000! By Americares’ math, we’re raising $20k, y’all! We can do it!
Will you be offended if I ask you how we know you’ll donate the money and not just spend it on candy corn pumpkins for Pendennis?
Nope, I won’t be offended. I actually have thought of this already and am going to make this part really fun: I’m going to make a video of me writing the check and sending the donation to Americares! Pendennis will come with me and Sophie will probably film it. (Sophie, will you please film the video?)
I don’t live in the U.S. and am wondering if this matters?
I guess I’d better limit participation to folks in the continental United States. But actually, if you want to pay the shipping of a quilt to your homeland, go for it! But you gotta pay shipping because that will eat into the donation.
What size are these quilts? And what else can you tell me about them?
The quilts are all lap- or queen-size. All the measurements will be listed on the silent auction thingy I’m going to try and make tonight. All quilts will have a label on the back that gives the date and says that I made it, you bought it, and together, we did something to help our brothers and sisters in the human race.
Is my payment tax deductible? I’m not a 501(c)3, so I think…no. I’m not sure, but I think what’s happening here is that you’re simply buying something and instead of me taking your money and spending it on candy corn pumpkins for Pendennis, I’m giving it away!
But what about this and that and how does this work and Mary Fons!!!
I have never done this before and I don’t know what I’m doing. Please do not get mad at me if I screw something up. We are doing this together. This is not about us, it’s about helping people who have lost everything, everything. That said, I’m going to try and make this easy and fun. Gulp.
HOT TIP: If you don’t subscribe to this blog, I highly, highly recommend doing that now. Because when you subscribe, you get an email in your email box whenever I post a post. Like, instantly, you get an email when there’s a new PaperGirl and that means you’ll instantly know when this whole thing goes live tomorrow. Your email is safe with me; even if I wanted to “sell” your name, I wouldn’t have the first idea about how to do that. Sell what? To whom?